The installation is what it is and I don't wish to explain
it. It has an effect that I find very satisfying, and that
is well enough left alone. On the other hand I was asked to
write a brief essay as part of the application to be included
in the Accumulation Project, and found myself enjoying very
much an effort to express a constellation of thoughts regarding
the effects of these taxonomies, and to a degree taxonomies
There is no center to the relating set of concepts these thoughts
revolve around. The thoughts are not intended as an analysis
of the installation- for me they are an entertainment which
is separate from the work itself.
1) Taxonomy, a definition.
A taxonomy is a collection of items which share a chosen characteristic.
In this case the collection consist of yellow things.
(This is not about yellow.)
I have collected things that are to me things that can be
considered yellow. Each of these yellow things also possesses
non yellow qualities.
It occurred to me while writing the essay that gathering a
number of yellow things and juxtaposing their unique ways
of being yellow maybe makes manifest or somehow stimulates
a mental awareness of the pure idea of yellow.
2.02 Found Objects
Potential found objects are common as an aspect of ubiquitous
loam, mulch, fodder- they are crap until recognized as treasure.
They are free for the taking, already possess their own person,
arrive with their own history, which will be at least abstractly
visibly manifest in the condition of the object.
In themselves they are not the creation of the artist and
are included to be vied with and to vie with each other.
2.03 Abstract and Articulated (Leonardo's advice)
Leonardo Da Vinci recommends to a painter lacking subject
matter that he find an old, blank, decaying plaster wall,
and look at that. "there you will find any number of
compositions" This will inevitably be a surface with
a fully subtle articulation. You will have stains, cracks,
losses, abrasions, etc that are an endlessly subtle abstract
picture, endlessly open for the projection of one's own contents,
memories, ideas, dreams.
In my taxonomy there is the same open-endedness and the same
articulated abstractness, of course juxtaposed dissonantly
with the concrete facts of each object.
At the beach you can find whole, identifiable shells. You
can find fragments of broken shells that may still possess
enough of the characteristics of the shell of which they are
to be identifiable. You can find smaller fragments which are
not identifiable, and then there is the sand, which is made
up of pulverized shells, along with other materials- an (metaphorically)
The taxonomy has few whole items- mostly fragments of one
class or another, but contains this range where many fragments
are clearly meme-like- they are recognizable as broken letters
in a former language.
There is the idea of undifferentiatedness in relation to its
opposite- contexts in which fully articulated worlds exist.
Limits of Distinction & Subjectivity
Leaving aside, as my project intentionally does, a scientific
definition of what is and is not yellow, you are left with
the subjective process of deciding where yellow ends and blue
begins, and at the other end of the collection, where yellow
ends and red begins- the halfway points at the centers of
green and orange where these secondary colors tip from being
more yellow to being more red, from more yellow to more blue.
There is a limit to how many differently colored yellows can
be identified- how many colors we can perceive in general.
The process is then one of testing this limit, and trying
to set the items out in a clear relation, any one item being
a bit redder than the one to its left, a bit bluer than the
one to its right, a bit more saturated than the one below,
a bit paler than the one above. And of course reasonable people
might disagree- or lighting conditions affect how the relationships
This subjective tenuousness was intentionally included.
The collection functions as a world image, within which each
object functions reflexively as a world image.
The collection becomes varied, subtle, and articulated until
it is an image of the world. Each object, as the attention
moves from one to another, in its own identity, recontextuallizes
the collection around it, and forms an aperture through which,
in its own history, it becomes a reflexive image of the world.
To a child or a childlike adult, shells are a treasure that
can wash up by chance on a beach somewhere and rest waiting
for them personally to discover. There is the pleasure of
coming upon an endless variety of (yellow) objects, especially
as some seem so much more forcefully unique than others- an
effect of me projecting my contents on them.
2.07 Us (Humans)
The project is about nature only in the most over-arching
way, where nature is defined to include human beings, their
activities and effects (and exclude nothing). Perhaps also
in that most of the objects are discovered outdoors and have
been exposed to the environment- sun, wind, rain, etc. over
Color is a powerful element of the visual world, not limited
to the human animal in this respect. However, in that we idealize,
and in that advertising and packaging make use of this need
of ours to idealize, the taxonomy becomes a very human image.
It isn't just a pure idea of yellow that exists in the world-
it's a pure idea of yellow produced through these profoundly
human processes of manufacturing, advertising, packaging,
2.08 Color is What is Rejected, not a quality possessed
Objects absorb some of the light that falls on them and reflect
some. The wavelengths reflected (rejected) determine their
There was only one rule regarding the choice of objects for
the collection, but as I considered the collection I realized
that there were some parameters operating in my choice making
that had an effect on how well I felt the collection makes
its point. I generally include only one example of a give
object- I feel that this emphasizes that each should be regarded
as unique, and emphasizes the variations on a theme effect.
I generally include objects within a pretty narrow size range-
again this would emphasize the variations on a theme aspect.
I generally don't include objects that are obviously organic
in nature where the color might be too fugitive. I excluded
some attractive items like car deodorant cards, as a strong
smell would bother me and distract from the point.
I asked myself the question, could I create a set of rules
and guidelines that would result in collections I would find
just as satisfying? This is a personal process, after all,
even though I have accepted objects from friends and children
and have hired assistants to help collect and install the
collection. But I suspect that the answer here would be yes,
and that the personal satisfactions of discovering, collecting,
and looking at the taxonomies is secondary to the objective
effect they have. I get a similar thrill standing in font
of display cases of various types of beetles at the Museum
of Natural History, for example.
I will collect yellow things which will be mostly litter and
other refuse of our urban environment, on walks. I will collect
them as I go about the normal business of my life.